The Art of Creating Stationery

There’s the Art of Letter writing and there’s the Art of Handwriting, but there’s also the Art of Creating Stationery. There’s just so much art involved in writing letters. It’s wonderful – so creative. We can find papers for sale to use for the letters we write, but what fun to create our own stationery. We don’t have to be brilliant artists. We just have to let our creative juices flow. There’s inspiration everywhere.

We could create a simple sketch describing where we’re sitting as we write our letter or we can focus on a favorite thing, study it, and try to capture it on paper. I happen to love wildflowers so I’ve created a line of wildflower stationery. Here is one of my designs. I like to write a little information about the flower I’ve drawn around the edges of the paper.

I love writing letters on large sheets of paper because then I’m able to form the letters of my words larger too and this helps make my hand writing more legible and attractive.

Showy Lady’s Slipper

But variety is the spice of life so sometimes I create cards 4 by 6 in size and I add blank pages inside so thoughts can flow, not be hampered by a shortage of paper. Who likes a short letter? I tie the pages together creating a sort of booklet.

Sometimes I’ll draw my fountain pen with a hello and a flourish at the top of my letter paper, a few pretend drops of ink to add a fun touch. You see, the most simple ideas can make for interesting papers.

This is a page from the book I wrote, my book of letters, and the art for this particular letter was simply flowers created by pressing my finger into ink pads and pressing the ink onto the paper. You see, you don’t have to be able to draw to create fun designs for your stationery. Creativity comes in lots of forms.

Clipping pictures from children’s books and adding a bit of colored pencil or chalk can create a nice touch for a letter – a little whimsy.

Adding press-on flowers that are purchased can be fun especially if you add a little of your own flourishes around them. There are a lot of great do-dads to attach to letter paper – feathers, dried herbs, flowers, even weeds; You can create collages using articles you find lying around your house – ticket stubs, candy wrappers, colorful designs on packaging, leaves, anything and everything – just arrange them in an artistic manner onto your paper.

One of my standard designs is a simple flower I create on paper.

I create this basic flower design using two ingredients. The stem, leaves and grass are cut from a handmade paper I found in a paper store. The blooms comes from a pack of scrapbook paper containing many sheets of various colorful circles. It’s fun and quite easy to whip up this design and for pennies I can create lots and lots of stationery. The basic design is always the same, but the blooms are different.

A little creativity goes a long way in creating your very own unique stationery. The Art of Letter writing has many components – your handwriting, your stationery and then of course your thoughts – all this shared with others. It’s all Art and it’s all wonderful fun.

So go ahead and buy stationery if you can find it or use plain paper if you like, but don’t miss the chance to exercise your creativity. Dress up that plain paper if the spirit moves you to do so. You’ll amuse yourself and your pen friends will enjoy seeing what you come up with too.

Enjoy!

A Country Inn Nature Day

Ah, Nature

There is nothing quite as refreshing as spending time in nature so on this Country Inn Day I gather up a book or two and head out to the gardens of Stan Hywet Hall in Akron, Ohio.

The entrance to Stan Hywet

I always feel that I’m leaving earth and going off to heaven as I enter the gates of Stan Hywet. With a little imagination they could be the gates of heaven. I enter and leave all cares behind me.

The entrance driveway

I enter slowly with great anticipation.

The Country House in all its glory

But the house is not what I’m interested in today. I do love love country houses but today is a Nature day. I’m off to the gardens. In each garden I shall sit and read for a bit taking in the beauty all around me. Do join me on this outing.

The rhododendrum alley

Years ago the rhodos were huge and glorious but then they became overgrown and it was necessary to replant a new supply. Sad that gardens, like people, get old and pass on. So much of human life can be seen in nature. I walk on and see before me a row of lovely evergreens.

Lush and green

And now on to the sunken English Garden. It’s my favorite.

path to the English Garden

I walk on and enter the stairs which take me down.

The stone work is so beautiful. The statuary enchanting. I come to the door of the garden. The anticipation ….

Entrance to the English Garden

Once inside I find a bench and enjoy my book with the beauty of plants, water, statuary and beautiful stonework all around me.

I could stay in The English Garden for hours but there are so many other gardens to enjoy. I must move on.

My next location for reading

I get comfortable on this stone bench, hard yes, but so beautiful. As I sit here and read I look up and see the lovliest stone balisters.

What workmanship

Eventually I walk forward and look down beyond the balisters at a garden below. There’s a path with lovely stepping stones between the flowering plants.

lovely

Moving on I approach a look out point.

“Beauty is the gift of God” so says Aristotle.

I stop here and reflect for a while. In this setting all cares melt away. Beauty does that for me and for most people, so it is important to place ourselves in beautiful surroundings as often as possible. But now join me in the Japanese Garden.

It is so peaceful here, down many stone steps. You’ve seen the bench where I sit wih my book. People occasioanlly walk by but they are quiet. In the words of Walt Whitman – “I loaf and invite my soul.”

So many paths. Which one to follow?
The remnants of an old tennis court

The residents of this house years ago enjoyed a swimming pool inside the house, but out here they played tennis. They are gone now and the court is almost gone, but not quite. Some poles still exist which must’ve supported the fencing to catch their balls.

Dressed for the game

You don’t have to rely on your imagination to picture the people of the past playing tennis here because there are pictures posted of these privledged folks enjoying themselves. The fashions of the past do look uncomfortable for playing tennis but they were elegant. At times I wish the styles would return “but the tender grace of a day that is dead will never come back to me” so says Alfred Lord Tennyson.

Another path

I keep walking and I see a stream and a romantic bridge in the distance.

Reminds me of Monet’s garden at Giverney, France but I’m right here in Akron, Ohio.

I climb the bridge, look at the fish and toads in the pond below and then walk up, up, and up, to the rolling lawns near the house.

So many stone steps

There is much open space.

I sit on a bench with a view of the lawn and the house.

After some resting and some reading I make my way to the Birch tree allee.

So many Birch trees and with such attractive stepping stones in the walkway.

The path ends at a look out point

What interesting twin construction
The area below

I look down and there’s another area to investigate but first I come upon a large brick drive. It leads to the house. Supplies were delivered to the house using this entranceway.

so many bricks

I keep walking to the cutting gardens

Lin Yutang said, ” Talk of mysteries! Think of our life in nature – daily to be shown matter, to come in contact with it – rocks, trees, wind on our cheeks!” This is exactly what I’m doing on this Country Inn Nature Day. I’m coming in very close contact with nature.

I see a grape arbor in the distance.

charming

I must investigate.

The grapes are luscious to look at and luscious to nibble. Can we ever have too much of a good thing? The designer of these gardens didn’t know when to stop. The gardens keep going and going and going. Now for a walk down some stairs – yes, more stone steps.

down, down, I went


Now to stroll this area. There are more ponds and much more open space to explore, but as you can see these gardens are so much more than plants. There is a great deal of hardscape.

I go way to the back of the grounds to take it all in and this is what I see.

“O world, I cannot hold thee close enough! Edna St. Vincent Millay

I climb back up the many stairs…

Do you notice the flowers set in the stone? Charming.

And I come to the children’s garden. It is a very fun place with fountains that make music and create bubbles. There’s a castle for children to investigate, giant bowling pins for a little game, and a whimsical truck filled with flowers growing in it.

And that’s not all. Next I come to the Greenhouse

and a beauty of a Greenhouse it is too

There’s even a lovely patio beside it – another nice place to sit with my book. And did I mention the Butterfly house?

Beautiful

Inside this building butterflies flit all around you. It’s a very happy place.

Ah nature

There was so much to take in at the gardens here. I shared only a small part of what I enjoyed. I have read that when we observe beauty it becomes us. We carry it with us and express it in the things we do with our lives.

“Think… of the world you carry within you. Rainer Maria Rilke

I reluctantly leave these gardens but the ride home through the Cuyahoga Valley National Park is quite delightful. I pass miles of the most charming yellow flowers growing wild along the road. There were millions of them. I got home and called the park, speaking to a ranger, inquiring what exactly these yellow flowers were and I was told they were called Wing stems.

Earth is crammed with heaven

I’ve had a perfectly wonderful day. I hope you’ve been having wonderful days too. As Henry Miller said, “It’s good to be happy; it’s a little better to know that you’re happy; but to understand that you’re happy and to know why and how… and still be happy, be happy in the being and the knowing, well that is beyond happiness, that is bliss.”


A Country Inn Day is bliss







A Country Inn Nature Day is bliss.

Favorite Recipes from the Inn Cook at the 1853 Jeremiah Brown House

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Hello there.

It’s Carol Ann, Inn Cook of County Inn Days.  Today I’m working away in my Butler’s Pantry preparing all sorts of culinary delights and because sharing doubles my joy I will share a few of the recipes I’m preparing in case you get inspired to do a little cooking  and baking yourself.

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I love cookbooks and my cookbook closet is proof of that fact.  Over the years I’ve collected quite a few wonderful cookbooks. With the help of these books menus are never ho hum affairs at The Jeremiah Brown House. There’s always something new being “cooked up” and there’s always cooking inspiration from the authors of these books. Some cookbook authors run restaurants or inns while others compile the recipes of famous personalities like Claude Monet, Beatrix Potter, Tasha Tudor or Princess Diana.  I find menu planning with the help of these books as much fun or sometimes more fun then  the actual cooking and baking.   But of course cooking and baking is great fun too  – the scents floating from the kitchen are Yummy and we all do have to eat, don’t we?

So let’s get started.

Sweet Potato Casserole

This recipe comes from cookbook author, Susan Branch.  It appears in her Autumn Cookbook.  It’s fun to have cookbooks which feature special recipes for the Season.  This recipe is great with Thanksgiving Turkey or Christmas Ham.  In fact it’s on the menu for Christmas dinner here at the Jeremiah Brown House, dinner for 20.  If you’re on a diet you might want to skip it, but then again live a little .  It’s the holidays!

Sweet Potato Casserole

Ingredients:  4 c. sweet potatoes cooked and mashed,  8 oz. cream cheese softened, 1/2 c. butter softened, 2 eggs beaten, 1/4 c, brown sugar, 2 and 1/2 Tbsp. dry sherry, 1/4 tsp. salt, 3/4 c. chopped walnuts, 1/2 tsp. nutmeg.

Process:  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  With electric mixer (not food processer) whip all ingredients except walnuts and nutmeg until light.  Stir in walnuts and put into a buttered casserole. Spread evenly and put nutmeg over top. Bake 45 minutes till golden brown.

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Once I try a new recipe and like it the recipe is copied and placed in a special notebook so that these tried and true favorites are easy to find when planning the next dinner party.  There are notebooks for Tea treats, for Main Course foods, for Desserts and all sorts of other categories. My father, Joe, always used to say, “You’ve got to have a system.”  So I enjoy creating a system for everything I do.  You might call these systems rituals, but  whatever you call them they help me get things done in an orderly fun manner.

But let’s make something else.

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Snake Rolls

You probably wonder why these yeast rolls are called snake rolls.  Well, though I didn’t bother with the details this time one can very easily turn these simple yeast rolls into little snakes by snipping a mouth and inserting a peppercorn for an eye.

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See?

The recipe comes from a book I have had for years.  The book is so used the cover fell off ages ago. What fun things Ann Wiseman came up with in her book – breads shaped like pocket fish that puff out when baked at 500 degrees, pink angel breads made from tomato dough, cinnamon lambs with bodies made of cinnamon buns.  So many fun things to dress up a dinner table.

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But the snake rolls are my favorite because I can whip up the dough and it keeps in a bag in the fridge for days till ready for baking –  2, 3, 4 or however many rolls I need.

Ingredients: 1 pack yeast, 2 cups warm milk, 1/2 cup sugar, 1/2 cup oil, 2 eggs, 7 cups of flour or more.

Process: Mix and stir ingredients.  Knead until smooth.  Oil dough ball and store in fridge, covered, punch down from time to time.  An hour before any meal cut off a lump of dough.  Divide into balls.  Roll balls into snakes.  Tie snakes into knots.  Snip mouth open an add an eye.  Let snakes rise 15 minutes on a greased baking sheet and bake at 400 degrees for 10 to 12 minutes.

I love baking bread.

But I also love baking pies.

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And it’s time for Pumpkin Pie.

Here’s my favorite recipe

Ingredients:  2 cups cooked pumpkin, 3/4 cup sugar, 2 tsp. cinnamon, 1/2 tsp. nutmeg, 1/4 tsp. ground cloves, 3 eggs slightly beaten, 1 cup light cream, 1/2 tsp. salt and a 9 inch pie shell.

Process:  Combine pumpkin, sugar, spices and salt.  Blend in eggs and cream.  Pour into pie shell. Bake 40 to 45 minutes in a 400 degree oven until knife is inserted off center and comes out clean.

Now for the Pie Shell Recipe.  The recipe comes from my friend Nancy who now lives in Washaugal, Washington.

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Mix 1 and 1/2 cup flour wih 1 and 1/2 tsp. sugar and 1/2 tsp. of salt in a pie pan.  Then mix 1/2 cup oil with 2 Tbsp. of milk and pour it into flour mixture.

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Using a fork mix everything together and press into place.

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And there you have a pie shell for pumpkin or pudding or any one-crust pie of your choice.  The crust is great for quiche too.

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But my other favorite pie is Apple.  Ah, Long live Apple Pie and good friends who share it, friends like you and I.  ( I set those lyrics to music once upon a time so I’m singing as I’m baking.)

Between my Mom and Paul Burrell, former butler to Princes Diana,   I  can come up with a lovely apple pie any time my spirit and tummy demand it.

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My Mom, Lottie, and her double crust pie pastry recipe

Ingredients:  2 cups flour, 1 tsp. salt,3/4 cup crisco shortening, 5 Tbsp. ice water

Process: Mix all ingredients except water in a food processor, then add the water a little at a time till the dough holds together like a ball.  Roll out onto a floured board.  Place crust into pie pan.

The apple pie filling recipe comes from Paul Burrell in his book, “Royal Manner”.  Paul says that this Deep Filled Apple Pie recipe is a particular favorite of the Royal Family.  Well then that’s one thing  my family have in common with the Royal Family.  They all love this pie recipe too.

Ingredients:  Pie crust recipe for double crust pie, 2 pounds of apples, finely grated rind and juice of one large lemon, 4 oz. of light brown sugar, 2 Tbsp. plain flour, 1 tsp. ground cinnamon, 1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg, 2 oz. of sultanas, 1 oz. butter, 1 small egg white beaten, 1 Tbsp. caster sugar.

Process:  Roll out the pastry and place in 9 inch pie tin.  Chill for 30 minutes.  Meanwhile peel, core and slice apples thinly.  Place them in a bowl and toss with lemon juice.  Mix the flour, brown sugar cinnamon and nutmeg.  Sprinkle a little of the sugar at the bottom of the pastry and mix the rest in with the apples and sultanas.  Place the apples in the pie pan and dot with butter.  Roll out the remaining crust and place on top as you wish. Brush with egg white.  Trim the pie edges and if the top is a solid piece of pastry cut a small hole in the middle.  Sprinkle the caster sugar on top.   Bake 40 to 50 minutes at 375 degrees.

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 So there you have it!  These recipes should keep you busy for a while… till the next time I share more Inn favorites.  When you make these goodies think of me or better yet, write to tell me how they turned out and how you liked them.  Sharing doubles the joy you know so share the food and share your thoughts.  I will be back with more recipes  from my Country Inn Days.  Till then Bon Appetite and enjoy!

It’s not just a Walk in the Park

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Work and worry are sturdy weeds, but joy requires cultivation.  How and when do you cultivate joy?  I cultivate much of my joy when walking through nature. It’s here with great beauty all around  me that I’m able to think positively and creatively.

Nothing comes from nothing you know.  We have to construct our own unique vision of a delightful life before we can make that life happen.  This takes imagination, effort, and a certain amount of time uncluttered by work-a-day concerns.  A stroll in nature provides the   perfect opportunity for creative thought.

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As we turn our eyes to behold the sights and sounds of nature, all that our Creator designed for us, we look away from sordid surroundings, from lack of beauty, from the imperfections in ourselves and those around us and with a little  faith-vision we begin to see new possibilities for our lives.

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Albert Einstein said, “The ideals which have always shone before me and filled me with the joy of living are goodness, beauty and truth.”  What are your ideals?  What do you imagine for your life?  We only have so much time on earth to live these ideals so if we’re not thinking about them constantly, if we’re letting the busyness of daily life distract us, we will forget to have and do the very things that matter to us most.

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Though it’s important to let our  minds relax and ramble freely while walking in nature  I find it helpful to have one particular subject I return to over and over in between the ramblings. That subject might be trying to find more time for reading in the course of a day or dreaming up a new ritual for afternoon tea or finding a better system for cleaning the closets. It could be anything, but if I limit my conscious thought to that one particular subject there’s a good chance I’ll have some concrete new ideas in place by the end of my walk.

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The rest and recreation we need is the kind which actually recreates.

We can use our leisure to do all sorts of things, but to cultivate joy we must be sure those things have meaning to us. Cultivating joy requires creation, creation requires reflection and reflection requires solitude. Lord Byron, one of my “dead friends” said, “A life without reflection is a sad affair” and that’s because without reflection we can’t cultivate joy.

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Besides being a chance to look into ourselves cultivating joy, studies show that a walk in  nature helps us feel physically healthier, better about ourselves in general and just plain happier.  You’d think a walk would make us feel more tired, but the reality is opposite. Exercise actually increases energy.

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Sometimes on my walk I like to pause for a while in a nice spot reading a book, a book inspiring new ideas, a book like Voluntary  Simplicity, by Duane Elgin.  Duane spent much of his life in the East and became very interested in harmonious and purposeful living.  In his book he quotes Richard Gregg who was a student of Gandhi’s teaching and who wrote in 1936…

“Voluntary simplicity involves both inner and outer condition.  It means singleness of purpose, sincerity and honesty within, as well as avoidance of exterior clutter, of many possessions irrelevant to the chief purpose of life.  It means an ordering and guiding of our energy and our desires, a partial restraint in some directions in order to secure greater abundance of life in other directions.  It involves a deliberate organization of life for a purpose.  Of course, as different people have different purposes in life, what is relevant to the purpose of one person might not be relevant to the purpose of another… the degree of simplification is a matter for each individual to settle for himself.”

Though we have all sorts of our own thoughts to explore and develop it’s important to include new ideas into the mix. Reading good books anywhere, any time is an  enriching experience so why not read in nature surrounded  by so much beauty?

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You have to find places where you recognize yourself.

It seems to me we’re  happiest when we’re surrounded by people and places that are in sync with us.  Where would those places be for you?  I’m most comfortable in coffee shops writing letters, in art museums, in restaurants with white table cloths and in nature.  To create the life you’ve always dreamed of you must know where you should and shouldn’t be spending  most of your time.  A daily walk in nature is a ritual I created for myself, one that serves me well.  Maybe it would serve you well too.

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“Romanticism is beauty without bounds — the beautiful infinite.”  —Jean Paul Richter (1763-1825)

I’m a Romantic and all Romantics love and need nature.  I’m also a music lover and some say music is the most romantic of all the arts.  For me music and nature go hand in hand so I love bringing the music of Romantic composers along with me on my nature walks.  Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata” or Debussy’s “Prelude to the  Afternoon of a Faun” make for lovely accompaniments to my visual pleasure.  Chopin, Tchaikovsky, Dvorak… there  are so many composers who were as influenced and inspired by nature as I am, taking  their music along with me doubles the joy..  What would a movie be without a soundtrack?  A walk benefits from a soundtrack too.

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If you’re a Romantic like me you owe it to yourself to find ways to live more romantically every day.  It’s easier than you think.  Regardless of your time or budget you can walk along and dream up all sorts of rituals for yourself, rituals like celebrating your own special days (I have my weekly Country Inn Days), indulging in breakfast in bed, picnics and other delights, or simply prioritizing time for romance.  Barbara Taylor Bradford wrote a book called “Living Romantically Every Day” and it’s filled with ideas you can make your own as you walk along in nature. That walk is a romantic experience in itself.  You don’t need to be in places like Paris, Rome, Boston or San Francisco in order to live and be inspired romantically. Nature is everywhere and its beauty has power.

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I do enjoy Romantic cities with their vivid enduring images; white towns surrounding an elm-shaped green; mellowed brick and graying stone; narrow cobbled streets along a tangy waterfront, ancient architecture, but I can be equally inspired by the simple beauty of nature in my very own town and you probably have lots of beautiful nature in and around your town too.  Take advantage of it.

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No matter how good you feel before a walk in nature you’ll feel even better after one.  And if you’re feeling low there’s nothing like the inspiration and comfort you’ll find in God’s great out-of-doors.  It’s impossible for any alert person to stroll along a lake or saunter through the  woods without something magical happening to their spirit.

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Why do you suppose there is so much variety in the beauty of nature?  Why aren’t all the trees the same?  Behind all philosophy and religion there is one thing for certain; the world and everything in it exists for some purpose.  We’re here for some purpose too and to feel our happiest we must love our life and believe it has significance, but we can’t love what we don’t really know.   Socrates said, “Know  thyself” and  Shakespeare said, “To thine own self be true.”

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The hard work we do doesn’t get us down, its the  work and activity we do which doesn’t connect to our true purpose, to our spirit. Doing the wrong things drain us.   By taking time out each and every day to know ourselves better we can keep our lives on track and when we take a walk in nature noticing  every beautiful thing God created with its intelligence and purpose, well, I think that beauty inspires us to become the artists of our own lives, cultivating joy, and working to create the life we imagine for ourselves.

So it’s not JUST a walk in the park.  That walk is a GREAT activity.  It can do a lot  for our physical, intellectual and spiritual lives.  It can even be a social activity if we walk with a friend, but shhhhhhhhhhhhh. . .

SILENCE IS GOLDEN.

Hang on to your old books

I love books.  I have always loved books, and over the years I have collected quite a few – I mean hundreds and hundreds.  I have book cases in each room.  There’s the living room collection,

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the guest room shelves,

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there’s a wall of books in my writing room,

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and book case in a spare bedroom,

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some rooms have books running along the ceiling,

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some rooms have collections on tables,

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the music room has a shelf system to hold old books,

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and certain pieces of furniture display favorites,

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of course there’s the library where we added two walls of bookcases floor to ceiling,

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There are books on the porch,

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and there are more –   many, many more .

Did I mention I love books?

Well, I thought I’d write about one of my favorite books today, so I strolled around the house scanning my collection, and I came upon this one by David Kibbes.

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Metamorphosis, written in the 80’s,  contained a style system whereby the reader was told what type of clothing would suit her based on body type.  Kibbes  grouped women into the following categories:  dramatic, natural, romantic, classic and gamine,  and though his particular fashion suggestions are now out of date, his system had a lot of originality and depth to it.

Being a spiritual person myself, what I found most fascinating about Kibbes’ system was how he not only considered the shape and size of a woman’s body, but also her spirit.  For example, I tested as  a classic type, but because I have many romantic notions in my personality David typed me as a  “Soft” Classic and made many suggestions on how to romanticize my classic look.  I found this to be very helpful and clever on his part.  Dramatics could be soft or theatrical. Naturals could be soft or flamboyant and so on.   We must make the final decisions about our appearance, but Kibbes gets us thinking in a fun way.

The blog, Brainy Beauty Talk, is creating posts these days updating some of Kibbes fashion  ideas and adding  new original  thoughts in  regard to his system.  You might enjoy checking it out.  There’s also a sample mini quiz  on line (type in: David Kibbes Metamorphosis).  It’s  the kind of quiz used in the book  which determines your yin/yang balance and image identity.       You may find the test and Kibbes whole concept fun.  I did, but,  if you get all fired up and  want to find a copy of the book for yourself

 GOOD LUCK!

And this is what I’m getting at.

Hold on to your old books.  I don’t remember what I paid for Metamorphosis  some 30 years ago, but I doubt it was more than $20.  Well, Amazon now is selling a  hardcover used copy for $77.59 and if you want a new copy, you’ll have to pay $176.70 for it.

WOWWY  ZOWWY!

So now you know why I titled this post as I did.

I think I’ll leave you now and see what some of my other books are selling for these days…

Maybe I’ll trade a few dozen in and take a trip to Bermuda.

Coffee Shops are for me

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The other day I was introduced to yet another French coffee shop in my area and I must say the warm blueberry-filled crepes dusted with powder sugar were absolutely delicious, but my waiter did not look anything like the fellow pictured above and the coffee shop did not look like anything pictured below.

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No, I guess one must go off to Europe, take a trip back in time…

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or find a book like this one, “The French Cafe” by Marie-France Boyer, in order to enjoy such romantic places.

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Starbucks in Brentwood, California
Here in the States there are coffee houses to be had, but they look more like this one.

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Another view…

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And here’s my favorite view because it contains a picture of my son Patrick working on his statistics.  But nice as this coffee house was, and I came here a number of times myself, there were no waiters in black tie nor were there any white tablecloths to be seen.  Sigh!

I was impressed because this Starbucks had live orchids on some tables.  Do you see one in the background?

Starbucks does have a good dark espresso roast so I’m always happy in one, and do you know –  if you buy their coffee in the market, you can bring your empty bag  back to the Starbucks, turn it in, and get a free cup of coffee? Yes, it’s true.

But I enjoy all sorts of coffee houses and when I’m back in Hudson my favorite is a Pete’s.

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Caribou Coffee

Until recently the Hudson Pete’s was  a Caribou Coffee and it looked like this.  There was a fireplace and a wall of windows.  The windows are still there but the fireplace is sadly gone now, and there have been other design changes in the room too, but many of the workers are the same people and the coffee is just as good.

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The nice fellow who works the counter

Do you enjoy spending time in coffee houses as I do?  A coffee house is a great place to read a book, write a letter, meet a friend,  plug your laptop in and create posts for your blog  or reach out to the whole world via internet or while writing letters while sipping a cappuccino.

My “dead friend” Lord Byron said, “Only in letter writing do we have solitude and society simultaneously”, but though he has a point there, coffee houses also grant  a certain amount of solitude while enjoying  society.

You can even make new friends while enjoying a coffee house.  I met a lovely man recently by the name of  David.  He is old enough to be my father, so don’t worry.  There’s no hanky-panky going on, just friendly conversation.  It’s always so nice to meet interesting new people, don’t you agree?  David worked in theatre and public relations, but  he also created and still creates  beautiful leather goods.  Every time David and I see each other at the coffee house I learn more and more about this interesting man, and isn’t that how friendship grows?

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This luxurious “naked” finish leather is drum-dyed, not spray painted and is without the fillers, pigments and plastic coatings found on commercial-trade leathers. The result is a warm natural look and buttery-soft suppleness found only in superb “naked” leather

Was I surprised when he gave me this lovely pencil case which he made with his own two hands.  I would’ve never met David nor enjoyed owning such a great pencil case if it weren’t for my love of coffee houses.  And look how much I’ve learned about leather. Now you’re learning about “naked” finish leather too and all because I frequent coffee houses.

So

Unless you’re reading this in France you may not be able to find coffee shops where waiters are wearing black tie and carrying  white towels, and you may not find coffee shops with white tablecloths, but nevertheless,  GO!…

Go to a coffee shop.

Read there!

Write there!

Meet People!

Coffee shops are great!

They’re for me and maybe they’re for you too.

Let me know what you think.

When Things Come Together

The other day I received an important  message.  Today that message is coming to you.  The message came at me from three separate sources:  from Mister Rogers of classic tv’s Mister Roger’s Neighborhood,  from Eloise, a fictitious little girl of the classic Eloise book series by Kay Thompson and from Amy Hollingsworth, a writer.  These three  individuals directed me to another book and the source of the message, to Antoine de Saint-Exupery’s The Little Prince.  I don’t know about you, but when things come at me in two’s or three’s I pay attention.

It all started when I was reading The Simple Faith of Mister Rogers by Amy Hollingsworth

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and a lovely book it is too,  filled with many warm and wonderful spiritual reflections. (I highly recommend this book to you.)  It seems The Little Prince was one of Mister Roger’s favorites.  Amy, one of Fred’s pen friends, said Fred spent most of his life quoting the following words from The Little Prince: 

L’essentiel est invisible pour les yeux

Well, I always loved Mister Rogers and I’ve written to him myself.  I also love the French language, along with many other  French things – French food and the restaurants that serve it, the French countryside, and my lovely  French friends, Stephanie, Patrice and their sweet children – Llyona, Marc-Aurele and Arpad.  So, when the above French words popped out at me from the Mister Rogers’ book, of course I took special notice of them.  In case you don’t speak French here’s what they mean:

“What is essential is invisible to the eye”

Have you ever given thought to this idea?  I have, especially in regard to  letter writing.  You see, I write to very many people whom I’ve never met ‘in person’, never even seen in a picture.  I get to know many of these people by way of  The Letter Exchange, (www.letter-exchange.com) an organization which puts letter writers together.  Though some folks I meet in this way will send pictures of themselves, most will not, but pictures or no pictures,  great friendships evolve as letters are shared.  You may think it strange that people could become great friends even though they have  absolutely no idea what each other  look like, but it is possible.  I have many of such friends. (Hello to Gwen, Patricia, Erika, and all the rest of you)  Why, I could be sitting next to one of these favorite people on a plane and never even know it!   But  I’ve often thought how wonderful this is, for  in letter writing people can get to know each other’s spirit without  letting physical appearance get in the way.  Looks can be so deceiving you know!  And I do believe

“What is essential is invisible to the eye”

But besides the spirit of a person being invisible yet very important, there are many other invisible things we should not  neglect.  What do you think they are?  What is essential for you? It’s good to take time out for serious reflection now and then, the kind of reflection letter writing provides, for only with thoughtful reflection will we ever come to know what is essential.

My “dead friend” Lord Byron, the poet,  put it very well when he used to say: 

             A life without reflection is a sad affair 

But you may be wondering where Eloise comes in to this story.  Well, I was having a movie night for the children in my church choir  and  I needed a good film so I did a search on Net Flix for something fun, but something that was also thoughtful.   I came upon a Disney remake of the classic Eloise at the Plaza.  Ah, the Plaza!  I love that hotel in New York City.

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The Plaza

So that was enough for me and the film proved to be just delightful.  I suggest you check it out no matter how old you are.  Julie Andrews plays a darling nanny (nothing like Mary Poppins).

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An older nanny, but very sweet

    And Eloise is so cute, so devilish, but  so full of life and thoughtful too – I found her very inspiring.  We’d all have a lot more fun if we acted like Eloise now and then.

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Eloise

Disney was so true to the book too – a wonderful thing.  Here’s an example.  Just take a look at the book and then a scene from the film.

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And the film had a little prince in it too -not Antoine’s Little Prince but a prince just the same, a prince who was quite touched by the message in Saint Exupery’s  book, a book which became  important to Eloise’s story.  The prince was touched by the  message in The Little Prince as was I, as was Mister Rogers and  hopefully as  you are too… because it’s so very true.

“L’ essentiel est invisible pour les yeux”

WHAT IS ESSENTIAL IS INVISIBLE TO THE EYE

Let this be your thought for the day

(or at least one of them)

by way of Mister Rogers, Eloise,  Amy Hollingsworth

and

ME!

                              

I feel like going visiting today!

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“Oh how this spring of love resembleth, The uncertain glory of an April day! Which now shows all the beauty of the sun And by and bye a cloud takes all away.”
Shakespere
I feel like an outing on this first day of April.  How about you?  But not just any outing for me.  I think I’ll go to England or Scotland… or maybe I’ll go to both places.  After all, I have an hour or two free.

You see, I am very blessed to have a wonderful imagination.  I suspect we are all born with wonderful imaginations but some of us fail to exercise them, and as with so many things, we  “use it or lose it”.  I use my imagination regularly.  Do you?  Oh, I hope so.  Imagination is a terrible thing to waste.

So today I decided to leave Hudson for a few hours and take a little trip.  I feel like spending some time with my lovely “dead friend” and nature artist Edith Holden.  What is a “dead friend” you ask ?  A “dead friend” is a person from the past who we get to know,  admire. and enjoy.   We meet these people by reading their biographies, autobiographies, and/or by studying and becoming  familiar with their work.  I bet you have a few “dead friends” of  your own, at least I hope you do.  “Dead friends” add so very much to life,  more than a great many living, breathing people we meet.

I met Edith years ago when I discovered her beautiful book, Nature Notes of an Edwardian Lady. This book was published in 1906 by her husband Ernest.  It was published after Edith’s untimely death at age 49.   You see, Edith  drowned in the Thames while gathering buds from chestnut trees which she intended to paint.

Edith was born at Kings Norton, Worcester, in 1871 and was one of seven children of a Midlands paint manufacturer.  Her family lived in the small village of Olton Warwickshire and it was there that she wrote and illustrated her Nature Notes.

I think I’ll join Edith on one of her trips to Scotland where she studied painting for a year.  Would you care to join me?  Ok, let’s go!

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Nothing like an old fashioned train ride through the English countryside toward Scotland. Our train is powered by steam and imagination.
And here we are (That was fast!) at the home of her art teacher and his family.  They invited Edith to stay with them since she was so very far from home.  Romantic and peaceful setting, isn’t it?

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Edith’s home away from home one Summer
But let’s pop into the art studio and catch a glimpse of Edith working with her classmates.  I personally love how people ‘dressed up’ back in the old days.  No blue jeans and  t shirts for them.

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Practice makes not perfect, but improvement
Of course one can’t get very good at drawing nature while sitting in a classroom so after a certain amount of instruction in basic  technique off to the outdoors we all go.  Put on your sweater for it’s early April and the air is chilly.

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Let’s watch Edith paint a horse or two
Do you ever draw?  You should.  It’s great fun and anyone can do it.  As I said, practice makes improvement.  I love to draw flowers creating original stationery for some of the letters I write.  Maybe you’ve received one such letter.   Flowers are easy to draw.  Try drawing this one:

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Come on. You can do it! I’ll take a break from writing this post and draw this pink flower myself. I’ll create a floral notecard, then use this card for the letter I’ll be writing tomorrow to a friend in the state of Washington
Ok.  Here’s what I came up with.  I wonder what drawing you came up with.

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Erika, this is for you
If you have not  made your drawing yet, it’s ok.  You can finish reading my post and then get busy.  Art  play is really a lot of fun.  You’ll see.  But if you think flowers are tricky I wouldn’t suggest you try animals… not yet anyway.

Edith drew all sorts of animals and she was wonderful at the task.  She drew snakes, birds, butterflies, bees, mice, so many creatures –   even the occasional cow.

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MOO!
Between reading Edith’s book and viewing a wonderful four-video series I own all about her life, I can experience a faux visit to Scotland and the English countryside any time I like, getting close up looks at its flora and fauna.

I can sit beside Edith using my imagination and watch her sketch picturesque vistas.  She’s encouraged me to try my own hand at sketching.  Friends always encourage each other you know.

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The making of landscapes
We then explore streams with all their exuberant life forms and I don’t even have to get wet.

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An April flood carries away the frog and his brood — (just a bit of Folk-lore)
My time spent with Edith, looking at nature and looking at her drawings of nature, soothes my soul.

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It may indeed be only phantasy that I essay to draw from all created things deep, heartfelt, inward joy that slowly clings
Coleridge
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I love the season well when forest glades are teeming with bright forms
Longfellow
 I’ve read that spending time with things of beauty helps that beauty enter into us.  The beauty becomes us.  I can sometimes feel that happening.  Can’t you?

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Our expedition in search of wild flowers takes us across hill and dale.
To be off with Edith is a wonderful escape from one’s daily routine.  And when we’re tired from all our walking we can sit quietly together,  meditate, or share our favorite lines of poetry.

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Can trouble live with April days, or sadness with the Summer moons?
Tennyson
Yes, spending time in England and Scotland with gentle “dead friends” like Edith Holden is a wonderful experience.

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My “dead friend” Edith Holden
 And  Edith’s  spirit stays with me long after these imaginary visits.  As I walk  the garden paths in my own town, in my own time,  I can still feel her calming presence dignifying my every step.

So now I’ve introduced you to Edith, but  it’s up to you to cultivate your own friendship with her.  Perhaps she’ll inspire you to create your very own nature notes or you might get yourself some watercolor pencils and take up sketching, creating art for your home or floral note cards to send to your friends.

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Edith loved to write letters as I do
Why here’s an idea for you.  Take a walk outside and sit yourself down to sketch a flower, plant, or creature and then send your picture  to me with a note – or better yet, a letter.  I would love that!  Here’s my address:

204 E. Streetsboro Street

Hudson, Ohio 44236

USA

I’ll be watching my mail box, and of course if you write to me I’ll write back to you.  So from me and Edith  too — a fond farewell.  We’ll leave you with the entry from Edith’s nature notebook dated April 1, 1906.

STILL, WARM, CLOUDY DAY.  GATHERED SOME WILD DAFFODILS IN A FIELD.

Happy Art Play in Nature

Note:  Pictures used for this post are attributed to Central Independent Television’s video entitled The Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady starrring Pippa Guard as Edith

My secret Hideaway

It’s Spring break in Hudson.  Many of my friends and neighbors have either hit the road or they’ve taken to the friendly skies in search of  escape.  Time away from all the usual things can be very refreshing indeed.  I escape to far off places now and then and enjoy myself  immensely, but it isn’t always necessary to travel  far in order to escape the monotony of life.

I enjoy regular escapes simply by turning  on my imagination, packing  a bag of supplies and heading  to my secret hideaway.  Of course it won’t be much of a secret if I keep telling people about it, but secrets are no fun unless they’re shared – at least some secrets.

My secret hideaway also goes by another name.  It can be called the Outbuilding.   What exactly is an outbuilding?  Webster defines it as a building (such as a shed or barn etc.) belonging to but separate from a house.

My personal outbuilding is inconspicuously located in the rear of our property.  It quietly sits with its back to all, commanding little or no attention.  Most of my visitors never even notice it.

When my husband first saw this outbuilding he was quite unimpressed.  In fact, he suggested we level it.  Level it?  NO WAY!   I liked it right from the start.  It was unusual, and I’ve always liked  “the unusual”  in people and in buildings too.

And so since my husband wanted no part of the Outbuilding I was delighted to make this building my own!  I do share it now and then with honored guests, perhaps hosting an afternoon tea, or serving drinks there before an intimate dinner at the house.

Would you like to pop in?  I’d be happy to show it to you if you have the time.  Why?  You know.  Sharing doubles the joy!

But put on your boots for it’s been snowing even though Punxsutawney Phil said we’d be having an early Spring.  Well, anyone can make a mistake, even Phil, still I’m told some locals are quite upset about the continuing snow.  There are “wanted posters” out for Phil.  Can you imagine such a thing?

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The Winter-looking herb garden
We must walk past the herb garden.  Do you see the outbuilding in the distance?  No?  Well I told you it was inconspicuous.  Keep moving past the barn.

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The Barn

Now do you see it?  Remember it has its back to us.   It’s hiding in the trees – perfect tactics for a secret hideaway, don’t you think?

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The Outbuilding
Doesn’t look like much, does it?  Well, let’s walk around to the front.  We’re almost there.

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A row of trees keep the Outbuilding hidden from the street – clever of the previous owners
Ok.  Ready or not, let me welcome you to my Outbuilding, my very own secret hideaway.

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The Outbuilding
It looks like a little play house, doesn’t it?  Well, that’s exactly what it is.  I come here to use my imagination, exercise my creativity, dream, read, write and  play. How and where do you play?  You do play, don’t you?   I hope so, but don’t just stand there in the cold.  Come on in!

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How ’bout a seat by the fire?
I was expecting you so I lit the candles and started a fire.  These things make the place feel so cozy any time of year.  Let me show you some of my things.  Of course I have my books, lots and lots of books.  I keep them on the shelves…

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A few books on The Art of Letter Writing
I keep more books hidden away in cabinets here, there, and everywhere for as I’m sure you know,  books can bring  the world to us  – interesting people and  great ideas.  My secret hideaway welcomes such visitors.

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More books
I’m delighted to have my maternal grandparent’s rocker, a rocker I remember from way back when.  I can remember sitting on my Dad’s lap at my grandparent’s house back when I must’ve been in the first grade.  Ah memories! Now that rocker is mine.

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To sit and rock… and dream dreams
I also am lucky to have my grandparent’s old kitchen table.  I can remember this table filled with breads and kuchens which my grandmother lovingly made to serve all of us when we came visiting every Sunday afternoon.  What ever happened to the custom of visiting?  I think we should bring it back!

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Grandma’s Table
I love to write letters on this table. (This one’s to you, Patricia)  I can sit here and look out the window at nature and ideas flow peacefully.

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A room with a view
Nature is always a most pleasant view whether it involves sunshine, rain or snow.  On warm days I open the two dutch doors and listen to the birds sing.

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The hideaway tea set
And of course I had to buy some special china for my Outbuilding.  This antique set serves me well along with any guests I may have.  Gee, I wish I could offer you a cup of tea right now.

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The firefplace
I was happy to see the color of the bricks used in the fireplace because they happened to blend nicely with some old oriental rugs we had from our first house.

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Our old rugs
Along with the rugs I pulled out some prints from storage, copies of primitive paintings… all the colors worked together.  The outbuilding sort of decorated itself.

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Primitives and candlelight

                             It was fun to choose fabrics and pillows

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A sleeper sofa, should I want to spend the night
                                             select accessories,

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One can never have too much candlelight
and hang pictures in my little hideaway –  an old portrait of me with my husband,

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Bill and CarolAnn 30 years ago
and a print of Fanueil Hall Marketplace (my husband and I met in Boston and made Boston our first  home together).

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Faneuil Hall Marketplace
                                 So here we are, in my hideaway.

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Notice the long built-in bench should I invite a crowd in for a talk on The Art of Letter Writing
There are books written  suggesting  the value of having a room of one’s own.  Well, a room is fine, but a building is even better.  When I escape to my secret hideaway, build a fire and turn on my imagination, there’s no telling what creative ideas appear.

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What is it about a roaring fire that make a person feel all cozy?
I hope you escape from your daily routine now and then. It’s not important how you do it or where you go, just that you give yourself time to be quiet and think.   Just to be quiet and think! Yes.  It could make all the difference in the world to your life.    This quiet alone time can stimulate your imagination, increase your creativity and bring you much needed peace.

Silence leads to reflection, reflection leads to appreciation and appreciation looks about for someone to thank.  As my good friend Mr. Fred Rogers used to say:  “I trust you will thank God, for it is God who inspires and informs all that is nourishing and good.”

So have yourself a Spring break,  and not just one.  Take lots of little breaks  all through the year, be they near or far away, breaks to get away from it all and be alone with yourself.  Be alone in silence.  If you have a secret hideaway of your own that’s great, but you don’t really need one.  You just need the  alone time and the  silence.

Be good to yourself

Take time to be

YOU!